WisBusiness: Ethanol plant could push food company out of Sparta

By Gregg Hoffmann

SPARTA – Century Foods International, one of the largest employers in Sparta, could move out of the city if an ethanol plant is built next to its location.

The Sparta City Planning Commission recommended earlier this week that the city annex the site of a proposed ethanol plant next to Century Foods’ largest Sparta plant.

It also recommended a zoning ordinance change that opponents say would help pave the way for the ethanol plant. City administrator Ken Witt says the zoning ordinance change — to allow heavy manufacturing with a conditional-use permit in an M-2 manufacturing zoning district — is needed, regardless of whether an ethanol plant is proposed.

The city council was scheduled to vote Tuesday on the two annexations for the ethanol plant site and the ordinance change. If the site is annexed, the council is expected to vote at future meetings on rezoning to M-2 manufacturing and a conditional-use permit for the ethanol plant.

Century officials said at the commission meeting that approval of the ethanol plant would be the “beginning of the end” for their company in Sparta.

Coulee Area Renewable Energy LLC got one approval for a new plant, but a court ruling nullified that action and forced CARE to re-apply.

Century Foods and CARE have a meeting scheduled later this week. Century Foods says a scientific study done for the company shows emissions from the ethanol plant would contaminate Century Foods’ milk-based products. Some other area residents say it would create air-quality problems.